After moving to Western Springs last June with my husband, Frank, our four kids and our dog, I realized that I entered a time warp! We had moved to a small town where neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves and brought baked goods. Perfect strangers invited us to their parties!
Women were riding their bikes with baskets on the front while wearing what seemed to be skirts. Perhaps they were skorts. Almost everyone was walking a dog, carrying a bag and actually picking up after it. It was surprising to me at first to have conversations with people while they casually held a bag of dog poop in their hands.
My most shocking discovery was that the students of Field Park Elementary School come home for lunch. I discovered this before I moved but after we’d bought our house. It was too late to change our location! I had just read To Kill A Mockingbird and I had noted that Scout and her brother came home for lunch each day. I thought that routine had stopped in the 1940s! I vaguely remember my mother mentioning walking five miles home for lunch and back again in one hour. (I think she had to prepare it too.)
I called my friends around the country to complain. No one on either coast had heard of such a thing. Everyone I knew sent their kids to school in the morning and got them back in the afternoon. My mom said, “Well, lucky for you Frank agreed to get the house you wanted because you’re going to be doing a lot of cooking.” UGH! Cooking is my least favorite chore. I’d rather clean. I recently told my new neighbors that I’d scrub all of their toilets if they’d just drop me off a meal every so often!
Once I found out that I could pay to have my darlings eat lunch at school, I was greatly relieved. Although my kids were excited to be able to come home, we have happily arrived at the schedule of once a week lunch at home. They enjoy it and I like checking in with them midday. Their little brother loves to get a little extra playtime with them.
Western Springs has been wonderful and friendly. A complete stranger at school registration invited us to a block party. One of my neighbors organized a drinks party so I could meet other moms. My husband and I have received invitations to more parties in the six months we have lived here than in any one year that we lived in New Jersey or Tennessee.
We marvel at such conveniences as staggered starting times at the elementary and middle schools. Every morning my kids have a leisurely breakfast together. My McClure student heads off to school at 8:00, the others at 8:30. My preschooler starts school at 9:00. In New Jersey, in a town of 4,000, all of the primary schools started at the same time, so you were racing to get everyone to their respective schools on time.
Because of lack of funding in Tennessee the buses needed to be utilized by three schools. My oldest started school at 7 a.m. My younger kids started at 9:00 a.m. That meant that my oldest was home at 2:30 and the younger ones at 4:30. It made for a very long day.
My husband and I marvel that the town actually comes by and picks up our leaves six times in the fall. Our mailman, Jim stops to tell me I have put the wrong postage on a letter. The sanitation men came back in the afternoon to pick up refuse that I had forgotten to put proper stickers on. Western Springs is a little slice of heaven on earth!
At first, being a fast-moving East Coaster, I couldn’t believe I landed here. I had to adjust to spending so much time with my kids; walking to school, eating lunch, going to parks and the library. But I realized the other day, as I was decorating the basket for my bike, while wearing my skirt, that I love it here!
Originally Published in The Doings Newspaper in Hinsdale, IL